What Kodak knew about atomic tests the American public didn’t

We know the US government did a lot of testing of atomic bombs in the years after WWII and that many of these tests were done above ground. That these tests were pumping dangerous levels of fallout into the environment was less well-known, except to Eastman Kodak and other photographic film companies.

Kodak was first made aware of the fallout issue in 1946 when customers complained of fogged film. Investigation showed that Indiana corn husks used as packing materials were contaminated with the radioactive isotope iodine-131 (I-131). They told no one.

Then in January of 1951, following a test in Nevada, Kodak scientists detected spiked radiation levels in a snowfall that measured 25 times the norm (Kodak measured 10,000 counts per minute of radiation, compared to recent unaffected snowfalls that registered only 400). Note, this was 1,600 miles away from the test site. This time they quietly informed the Atomic Energy Commission and an industry group of their findings. The AEC did basically nothing until Kodak threatened to sue them, at which time they promised to keep Kodak and other photographic film companies aware of when they were testing along with sending meteorological information to help predict when fallout might reach them. The AEC told no one else.

How American companies sold a toxic product

One of the more infuriating stories that have come out of the disaster in Flint is the number of other US cities who also have elevated lead levels in their water. This is due to the use of lead pipes for water supplies, which cities installed left and right as populations grew in the 19th century. But lead was used in other products like paint and gasoline. But by the 1920s the evidence that lead was harmful was more than clear. Yet the lead industry went on the offensive, threatening lawsuits against anyone who dared say lead was harmful.

It wasn’t until the 1970s the lead paint was finally banned. Lead pipes in new construction hung on until the 1980s. Lead in gasoline began being phased out in 1979 but was still present until January of 1996 (it remains in aviation gasoline and other specialty fuels). But old lead water pipes continue to serve many cities and there simply isn’t enough money to replace them.

The End of the Dinosaurs: How Luis and Walter Alvarez Uncovered the Catastrophic Event Responsible

It’s been known for a long time that the dinosaurs and many other species went extinct fairly quickly. It was likely due to a fairly widespread and catastrophic event, but what?

Luis Alvarez was a physicist on the Manhattan Project, his son Walter a geologist. When Walter showed his father some sedimentary rock of an age associated with that extinction Luis thought that an examination of radioactive isotopes might help reveal what happened. Their investigation showed unusually high levels of tritium compared to both older and newer layers. They knew that such high levels didn’t occur naturally on Earth but were consistent with would be expected if a very large asteroid were to strike.

The proof of this hypothesis hinged on being able to determine its size and where it actually hit. That discovery would eventually come but unfortunately Luis had passed away.

An Oral History Of The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Popular Mechanics takes you through An Oral History Of The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster.

On the morning of January 28, 1986, despite concerns within NASA and among others working on the launch that the weather was too cold, the shuttle Challenger blasted off. Seventy-three seconds later, it broke apart in long, grotesque fingers of white smoke in the sky above Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Who Poisoned Flint, Michigan?

Who Poisoned Flint, Michigan? I think a better question is “What poisoned Flint, Michigan?” with a simple answer: The idea that government should be run like a business and never run a deficit. At best that idea simply doesn’t work, as in Greece, at worst it harms the people it governs, as in Flint.

The Rebel Virgins and Desert Mothers Who Have Been Written Out of Christianity’s Early History

Usually when we think of monks and the monastic life we picture something from the Middle Ages but they were following a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of Christianity. In the first centuries AD, as Christianity became formalized and political some renounced their lives and families and went into the desert to live as hermits. Church history remembers these Desert Fathers but deliberately chose to forget the Desert Mothers, the women who defied social norms and Roman law to also live the hermit life.

Spam email of the year

I get quite a bit of spam email, most of which I just delete. But every now and then one catches my eye and I’ll read it for laughs. I know it’s still January but I believe this one is the best one I’m going to get all year.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security <mailling@dhs.gov>


Jan 19 at 7:18 PM